In Dublin, Russell Kirk once wrote, there stands a “roofless wreck of an eighteenth-century house.” Since 1729 this crumbling place has served as many things, including a shop and a government office “of the meaner sort.” But these ruins have a forgotten significance: they are what remains of the birthplace of Edmund Burke, who Kirk saw as the epitome of “conservatism, justice, and prudence.”
To choose leaders wisely, citizens must have a vision of what they want their society to look like. Articulating such a vision is the goal of The Thriving Society, edited by James R. Stoner, Jr. of Louisiana State University and Harold James of Princeton University. The volume collects essays on the main pillars of a “decent and dynamic” society, with the aim of helping “the thinking public understand what elements make up a society where people can flourish, to point out the reasons for some of the problems we currently experience, and to indicate several avenues for reform.”
There are few American writers who could challenge Edgar Allan Poe (1809-49) over the extent of his influence on American culture, both high and low. The Raven is still intoned by young schoolchildren, The Fall of the House of Usher still fascinates intrepid high-schoolers, and graduate students still write dissertations on American-style macabre. A certain professional football team, for its part, continues to win Super Bowls.
It’s turtle doves today. Two of them we’re supposed to receive here on Saturday the 26th, the second day of Christmas, 2015. The turtle dove—as you know, of course—is the Streptopelia turtur: a member of the family Columbidae, a migratory species native to Europe and North Africa with a southern Palearctic migratory range. Smaller and slighter than non-turtley doves, I’m told, the turtle dove may be recognized by its brown color and the striped patch on the side of its neck.
If 2015 will be remembered for anything, cinematically speaking, it’s for being the year of strong women. So many ladies in so many good movies with so many good roles! From the party girl who realizes that she won’t be happy until she finds a good man to settle down with (Trainwreck) to the scantily clad harem of models fleeing through the desert (Mad Max: Fury Road) to the greatest Mary Sue who ever Mary Sued (Star Wars: The Force Awakens), it was a fantastic year for strong female characters. Here’s to many more like them!
Quentin Tarantino’s eighth film might also be his most Tarantino film, the one that takes all his quirks as a filmmaker and compresses them into their purest form. Sprawling throughout, with clearly delineated sections that are alternately very talky and very bloody, I loved it. But your mileage may vary.
I last thought seriously about the meaning of Christmas trees late one December Saturday a quarter-century ago. Dusk was falling, flurries were flying, and it was cold. I was dragging a Fraser fir tree down the breakdown lane of the McGrath and O’Brien Highway in Somerville, Massachusetts, midway through a two-mile trek from a Christmas tree lot to my third-floor apartment. The tree was gigantic. It was about nine feet tall, two feet taller than the room I planned to put it in. Half an hour into my walk it occurred to me that holding the tree by the tip and dragging the base of it along the asphalt might be damaging it, scuffing it up so it wouldn’t sit properly in the Christmas-tree stand. I dropped the tree for a sec and looked. Yikes! Abrasion had beveled the foot of it, so it was shaped like a chisel, and had taken out the bottom tier of branches, too. But I didn’t have to worry about fitting my tree in the Christmas tree stand, I reflected, because I didn’t have a Christmas tree stand.